Comments: Anglican responses to Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill

Fascinating to read: "I welcome the opportunity that civil partnerships have given to enable same sex couples to mark and celebrate their commitment to each other".

This feels like it is in marked contrast to the reception of Civil Partnerships a mere seven years ago.

The harrassment which my (clerical) partner and I received from the then bishop of his diocese was frightening and certainly did not show any sense of celebration.

Posted by Malcolm Macourt at Friday, 25 January 2013 at 11:09am GMT

I am struck by the statement from the Church in Wales that it might want to make provision for same sex marriage in future and that the proposed legislation allows it to do so. It is notable that in spite of the temporising of the Bishop of Leicester, and his belated acknowledgement of a variety of views in the Church, he maintains the absolutist position of the Church of England and does not acknowledge that its position might change.

One might also comment that the complaints about legislating at speed come ill from an organisation which seems to make a virtue of not coming to any decision because it is too difficult. Unfortunately for it, the world isn't going to wait for the Church.

Posted by Richard Ashby at Friday, 25 January 2013 at 11:34am GMT

Wow!
The line saying that marriages converted from civil partnerships shall be deemed to exist from the date of the civil partnership will cause a stir!

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Friday, 25 January 2013 at 11:47am GMT

On 6th January, I wrote as a comment to 'More on the civil partnerships decision':

'Scot,

As I mentioned on the comment thread of the preceding post, I read it similarly.

A 'Pretend To Ask, Don't Tell' policy will ensue for admitting civil-partnered clergy to the episcopate. The theology of sex-free same-sex soul-mating will need a poster-child. Cue the next bishop. What about an uncontroversial unpartnered clergyman (who can challenge conservative and liberal orthodoxy by 'coming out' about his homosexual orientation and celibacy at the same time)?

The liturgical meaning of blessing will be re-vamped to claim it signifies no more than the invocation of divine influence for good, rather than divine approval of the kind of relationship. Gender-neutral marriages that are solemnised elsewhere (and which *could* be celibate) could then be followed by a religious blessing service.

In political terms, this buys the church time to manoeuvre. The Fourth lock is an imminent blanket exclusion. If, in response, the government removes it from the draft legislation, its immediate impact on church's declining position in civic life is reduced.'

Strange, isn't it? That which is discounted by many here can actually come true. So, another insight. Remember St. Peter's words: 'For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?' (1Pet. 4:17)

Posted by David Shepherd at Friday, 25 January 2013 at 2:20pm GMT

Gosh! Isn't this the same as Archbishop Nichols said a few weeks back? On the last day of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity this is a major achievement!

Posted by joseph Golightly at Friday, 25 January 2013 at 3:56pm GMT

"ought at least give pause for thought."

What a mild-mannered and minimal request. Who could possibly deny it ? I have little doubt but that the government will 'at least give pause for thought' - one last time.

I am very glad to see that the official Church of England response, has backed off, and backed-down from its previous strident, anonymous statements. Though the remark about the up-bringing of children reeks of special-pleading and mendacity.

What a shame that other commentators in a Church of England context, care little for humane values, let alone human beings. I refer to spokesmen who are apparently single-minded in their fundamentalist notions - no matter how irrational, or liable to lead to harm to vulnerable groups(lgbt), and individuals. E.g. a response to Revd Steve Chalke on Fulcrum written by Revd Martin Kurht and some of the fundamentalist responses, which show barely veiled contempt for lesbians and gay men; but total confidence in ancient writings, which Biblical studdies and criticism do not support. Allayed with unwarranted interpretation motivated by prejudice against lgbt.

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Friday, 25 January 2013 at 4:18pm GMT

I do not see why the Church of England should press 'serious questions about the implications for wider society' when many of us in the Church of England support 'gay marriage'. The reply of the Church in Wlaes is much more positive. When Oh when will my Church wake up!

Posted by Jean Mayland at Friday, 25 January 2013 at 4:25pm GMT

To set the Bishop of Leicester's statement in context, how would it feel to replace the 'traditional understanding of marriage' with the 'traditional understanding of slavery' or the 'traditional understanding of the position of women'? Allowing same sex couples to enter into civil marriage does not undermine anything. Could the House of Bishops simply stop producing false and wilfully damaging statements, please?

Posted by commentator at Friday, 25 January 2013 at 5:42pm GMT

The bishop says: "I do not however believe that holding to a traditional understanding of marriage is, or should be, regarded as a discriminatory position."

I assume he has misplaced his comma, and means "I do not however believe that holding to a traditional understanding of marriage is, or should be regarded as, a discriminatory position."

Either way what he says is daft. Since his "traditional understanding of marriage" is that homosexual couples should be excluded - it plainly does discriminate against homosexuals.

Let him argue that such discrimination is justified if he can. But he can't deny that it IS discrimination.

Still, it's somewhat encouraging that he is not keen to be seen to support discrimination, even while he does it.

Posted by badman at Friday, 25 January 2013 at 7:02pm GMT

Well spotted Martin (at 11.47 am). Have just been reading the Bill and the explanatory notes together. Explanatory Note 54 (Bill clause 9(7)) explains that conversion of civil partnerships to marriages will be retrospective to the date the civil partnership was formed. The bishop of Leicester, sadly, is fighting a battle where the contending armies have already left the field. Any civilly-partnered clergy member or anglican layperson can (if this clause survives) become retrospectively married from the date their cp was formed. As Colin Coward has been saying elsewhere, this creates a reality on the ground that the C of E has shown no signs of coping with.

Pity, though, that if this clause survives there will be no need for Quakers to offer to marry such couples "according ot the usage of Friends".

Posted by Iain McLean at Friday, 25 January 2013 at 7:44pm GMT

This is a very interesting legal analysis

http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2013/01/25/comment-the-same-sex-marriage-bill-isnt-the-end-of-the-journey-towards-gay-rights/

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Friday, 25 January 2013 at 7:49pm GMT

Commentator:

'Allowing same-sex couples to marry doesn't undermine anything'.

As long as gay couple want to produce a child who has no involvement with the outside biological parent, their world remains separate (Not that this is ideal).

However, for those same-sex couples who, once married, will opt for cheaper informal assisted reproduction (GayIVF.com survey suggests 67 per cent want assisted reproduction), they may involve the external biological parent in the child's life. If they decide that such involvement is intrusive to their decisions or values, the courts will have to choose whether the biological parent's unrelinquished rights are trumped by the couple. However, marriage does this automatically by prioritising spouses with legal parental presumption. The courts will have no choice.

A case in point was the biological father who was denied his unsurrendered paternal rights by a California court. His girlfriend had become pregnant by him, while separated from her gay partner, but because of the marriage, he was denied parenthood in favour of a complete legal fiction.

The judge declared that his ex-girlfriend's marriage conferred her spouse (who had no blood ties to the child) with presumption of parenthood.

Since State law only allows for two parents (though one was in prison, while the other was in hospital) the court ruled that he had no rights to his child. The child was made a ward of the State.

Same-sex marriage will usurp the unrelinquished parental rights of these biological fathers, and force courts to undermine them further in favour of a partner with no parental blood ties. Just as it did in California. This is replacing unsurrendered natural parenting to privilege a complete biological impossibility.

The California case prompted Senator Leno to introduce a three-parent family bill that passed the Senate last year. Thank God that Governor Brown demolished it in December.

Posted by David Shepherd at Friday, 25 January 2013 at 10:38pm GMT

"...but as the legislative process continues we shall wish to press serious questions about the implications for wider society, for the significance of procreation and upbringing of children as part of the purpose of marriage..." - Bishop Tim Stevens -

This takes no account of the undeniable fact that many couples nowadays do not seek the benefits of legal Marriage in order to live together and raise their children in a stable and loving environment.

They do not necessarily see "Marriage" as at all necessary to their heterosexual happiness. So why should the Church deny the entitlement to Same-Sex couples who DO SEEK the blessing of Marriage?

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Friday, 25 January 2013 at 10:43pm GMT

I've seen one key exclusion that should mean nothing to proponents of gay marriage, since they claim that marriage does not regulate parental rights. It also prevents the Californian legal morass over conferring presumption of parenthood on the partner who has no blood relation to the birth mother's child.

The Bill says:
Common law presumption:
2 (1): Section 11 does not extend the common law presumption that a child born to a woman during her marriage is also the child of her husband.

(2) Accordingly, where a child is born to a woman during her marriage to another woman, that presumption is of no relevance to the question of who the child’s parents are.

I'm glad that the drafters listened to reason! Those resorting to informal assisted reproduction will have to defer to the rights of the biological father, especially when considered in the light of the new shared parenting bill.

This is a major concession to the primacy of biological parents that marriage upholds. As I said, that should mean nothing to gay couples!

Posted by David Shepherd at Saturday, 26 January 2013 at 12:10am GMT

MM,

That is one of many reasons why many of us (of all orientations) in said diocese despise that former bishop. Of course, a current vacancy allows scope for a degree of expiation.

Posted by john at Saturday, 26 January 2013 at 5:51am GMT

Here's another item which may be of interest:
Para 41 of Schedule 7 adds a requirement to Schedule 9 para 2 of the Equality Act, such that a church, for example, may require that a priest not be married to a person of the same sex.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Saturday, 26 January 2013 at 7:59am GMT

'I welcome the opportunity that civil partnerships have given to enable same sex couples to mark and celebrate their commitment to each other'.

Now that the Church's official spokeperson on this issue has formally made this anouncement the Church should require confession, public repentance and repudiation of former views from all those, holding what ever office, who have condemned, spoken against, harrassed and obstructed any and all who have entered civil partnerships. Nothing less will show that these people are and remain fit for office. (Isn't this similar to what was required of Jeffrey John?)

Posted by Richard Ashby at Saturday, 26 January 2013 at 10:00am GMT

The recently late lamented Ian Buist, who led us in the parliamentary lobbies during the debates on Civil partnership, was deeply disappointed when we failed to persuade government to give us vows and allow us access to religious premises. There was a deep sense that the Labour executive had turned Lord Lester's generous Bill aimed at both gay and straight couples into rather a mean gay ghetto.

Later as the raft of orders and secondary legislation flowed out giving civil partnerships a status our opponents thought had been denied us they expressed outrage. The bishop of London talking to a group of his evangelical clergy at the time, claimed that he and the church had been duped.

I wrote at the time for LGCM, " it may not look or walk like a duck, but the government seem determined that, as far as the consumer is concerned, it will smell and taste like a duck "

But if this legislative trick works then the bishop of London will have been correct and I, in fact, had failed to recognise a distinctively new member of the sub- species of duck!

But, will it survive? Or, is this a cat? Wickedly presenting itself as Peking Duck! Does it not have the smell of retrospective legislation? Are those presently in civil partnerships going to be happy that the government now sees them as already married, just lacking the necessary application? There are other questions too ....

As this matter is kicked around while we try and find where the legislative drafters have laid an egg, we will pine for the clear and wonderful mind of dear Ian Buist, we owe him much and miss him more.

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Saturday, 26 January 2013 at 10:38am GMT

"This is a major concession to the primacy of biological parents that marriage upholds."

What twaddle! Are you saying, David, that the biological father of a child primarily raised by his mother's second husband has more rights than the man that raised him/her? Even if the biological father has never met the child? Or contributed to its welfare?

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Saturday, 26 January 2013 at 12:16pm GMT

I find the Bishop of Leicester's comments, and the Church of England's official response, deplorable, with regard to the conception of marriage portrayed, and the attitude towards same-sex marriage and the Government's proposals for the same. The C of E's position is risible as a supposedly "representative" statement, theologically weak, historically wrong, and an affront to many of us within her precincts who hold views strongly affirming of homosexual love and marriage. I am ashamed in this instance, as in so many of late, to be associated with the public face of the Church of England.

Posted by James at Saturday, 26 January 2013 at 6:38pm GMT

Elsewhere Peter Ould quotes an unnamed bishop as saying the CofE would have to outlaw gay clerics from getting married and Peter says if they don't it will make the House of Bishops declared policy a nonsense.

I guess the law as proposed would allow the CofE to say its clerics should not be married to people of the same sex, though just how that would be implemented and enforced I would imagine might require a new offence?

Being divorced was once a barrier to office.

Though one can already see the outcome of outlawing gay marriage will be even more public scorn, especially if someone in a happy marriage is thrown out of office or rejected for ordination whereas if they divorce, they would escape being so humiliated.

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Saturday, 26 January 2013 at 7:16pm GMT

Pat:

A case in point was the biological father who was denied his unsurrendered paternal rights by a California court. His girlfriend had become pregnant by him, while separated from her gay partner, but because of her marriage at the time of birth, he was denied parenthood in favour of a complete legal fiction.

The judge declared that his ex-girlfriend's marriage conferred her spouse (who had no blood ties to the child) with presumption of parenthood.

Since State law only allows for two parents (though one was in prison, while the other was in hospital) the court ruled that he had no rights to his child. The child was made a ward of the State.

Without the limitations, same-sex marriage would again usurp the unrelinquished parental rights of these biological fathers, and force courts to undermine them further in favour of a partner with no parental blood ties. Just as it did in California. This is replacing unsurrendered natural parenting to privilege a complete biological impossibility.

Posted by David Shecpherd at Saturday, 26 January 2013 at 11:25pm GMT

Can we please not hijack another thread with this biological kinship nonsense? It never gets anywhere and it only matters to David, the rest of us are quite happy to have children and raise them in happy families without constantly worrying about which sperm produced them in the first place. Before we know we'll be back in the interminable consummation cul de sac that has killed more threads than most other topics.

There must be more important things to discuss about this.

Does anyone know who this "Church of England" is that continues to hold a traditional view? Is this the Bishop's personal opinion? Is this an official position from... which CoE body?
The CoE is still talking about the Civil Partnership that most Christians will shortly convert into marriages and that will become completely irrelevant.
Are there any plans for it to seriously and formally engage with marriage equality?

Posted by Erika Baker at Sunday, 27 January 2013 at 8:05am GMT

"A case in point was the biological father who was denied his unsurrendered paternal rights by a California court. His girlfriend had become pregnant by him, while separated from her gay partner, but because of her marriage at the time of birth, he was denied parenthood in favour of a complete legal fiction.

The judge declared that his ex-girlfriend's marriage conferred her spouse (who had no blood ties to the child) with presumption of parenthood."

Sorry, David, but I believe this case was decided entirely correctly. "Blood ties" do not and should not trump psychological ones. "Parents" are the people who raise us, not simply the ones who contribute their DNA to us.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Sunday, 27 January 2013 at 12:46pm GMT

A question for Martin and others re the retroactivity issue. I would have thought that it was a good thing. Pension rights and other benefits will have accrued from before the act takes place, including private rights that seem like they may be hard to sort out. And the CofE will have a harder time saying its clergy can't be married (per Simon S's point above), if a lot of them long have been! So I'm curious about what you seem to think may be ill effects of this clause.

And by the way, Erika, since this is a live thread, I was wrong about Philip Giddings and the House of Laity. The whole thing was ill-conceived and bad strategy. My lawyer hat was off when I implied (stated) otherwise. (Apologies to Simon, too, for being off-topic!)

Posted by Scot Peterson at Sunday, 27 January 2013 at 4:50pm GMT

Pat:

In the California case, this was a man who was actively involved in his child's life as soon as he found out he was to be a father. The child is now a ward of the court. As with the competing maternal claims that Solomon resolved, somr are happy to see the child torn apart in the name of exact justice. Strange that liberals are happy to vaunt biological rights of the mother as trumping all else, when it comes to abortion.

Nevertheless, we're both entitled to our opinions. As you may be aware, Senator Leno tabled a three-parent family bill which was passed the Senate. but was vetoed by Governor Brown. Perhaps, you also think that binary parenting should be ditched as another unfortunate legacy of the creation archetype in Genesis.

The clause will stand. That will be the law here. Suits me fine!

Posted by David Shepherd at Sunday, 27 January 2013 at 8:56pm GMT

Yes, Scot, I did smile when I realised what a pickle the CofE would find itself in over the retroactive marriage if they took action against civil partnership converts. You are right I am sure, that it will make pension rights etc less of a lottery.

Perhaps my own personal sense of extreme discomfort will not be felt by many. Because I was so close to the debate on civil partnership I felt we had been given something quite second rate, government ministers spoke about the clear blue water that separated it from marriage. From "allies" like Stonewall ( and it sort of became their Bill) we got a sneering deep distrust for marriage and the sense that civil partnerships were of a different order. So I think it not surprising that we entered our civil partnership, at that time excluded from religious premises and still without mandatory promises with the sense that we had been sidelined into a new gay ghetto.
For us our marriage dates back some 30 years and more and if the government wanted to make it retroactive then we would see the time when we set up a joint bank account or recognised each other as next of kin in our wills as a suitable point. I cannot think of our civil partnership as the moment of our public recognition of our marriage because the government and others told us it was not!

Look at that nasty, vindictive judgement and the punitive costs awarded against Kitzinger/Wilkinson when back in 2006 they tried to establish what the government now asserts. One wonders if they might not have grounds to appeal?

For us, one of the most sacred and wholesome symbols of our life is our marriage, the governments determination that it began legally when we were civilly partnered is not something we feel comfortable to welcome.

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Monday, 28 January 2013 at 10:52am GMT

David:

I believe that, in cases of child custody, the standard should always be "the best interests of the child." That said, I believe the presumption is that those interests are best served by keeping the child with the parents (two men, two women, man and woman, single parent of either gender) with whom he/she has always lived (or most often lived), absent evidence of abuse or neglect. IMO, "blood ties" have little bearing on those "best interests".

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Monday, 28 January 2013 at 2:10pm GMT
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